I am proud to be a part of this lawsuit. We are sending a message: the government cannot be allowed to get away with violating Constitutional rights. Hopefully others will be encouraged by this case to speak out against the continued move towards less freedom in America:
Today, Occupy-affiliated demonstrators who were illegally held for two hours against their will on November 30, 2011 inside a pen built of interlocking metal barricades filed a civil rights action in federal court. The group is represented by the law firms of Rankin & Taylor and Beldock Levine & Hoffman. In addition to damages, the group seeks an injunction on behalf of all demonstrators in New York City that would prohibit similar Police tactics.Source
“We came to express our views at a place where the President might see us, and were detained for hours as if we had committed a crime,” said John Rivera, one of the class action plaintiffs, who was a member of the Civil Service Employees Association, a prominent New York Union, for 20 years and is a Bushwick, Brooklyn resident. Mr. Rivera has been demonstrating in New York City since the 1980s. His first political action was protesting the Soviet Embassy after the shooting of an American soldier in Germany. He says he has never experienced a detention like this one.
“What happened to me, and my fellow protesters, was an eye opener. We were corralled like farm animals.” Mr. Rivera had been spending time in Liberty Park since September 19, 2011.
Though the New York Civil Liberties Union was successful in getting the NYPD to agree to restrictions on the use of barricades in 2008, the current suit alleges that the police department has violated those guidelines as well as the US Constitution.
“Under Commissioner Kelly the NYPD has considered itself above any restrictions when it comes to political protests, even restrictions it agrees to in front of a federal judge. We will look for judicial oversight of these tactics in order to defend New Yorker’s rights,” said attorney Mark Taylor.
“We were demonstrating peacefully and then with no warning we were detained for hours,” describes Jonathan Jetter, another of the plaintiffs, who is a professor at the State University of New York at Purchase and the owner of a midtown Manhattan-based music business. “We were denied access to legal representation and the press. I’ve taken part in many protests and this was the most chilling police response I’ve yet encountered,” he continued. Mr. Jetter lives in Queens.
“This felt like an attempt to scare us from participating in future protests,” explained Phoebe Berg of Brooklyn, another class representative. “I hate the fact that I can’t help but take into account the real possibility of being detained again, not allowed access to a water/food or a restroom for possibly hours, during the May Day General Strike and other future actions.”